In Lebanon, Première Urgence Internationale keeps working to ensure equal access to health care
To help the Lebanese government face the COVID-19 epidemic, Première Urgence Internationale ensures the continuity of its services in the country, and recently started an additional emergency response, in close cooperation with other INGOs. During 45 days, the teams will be distributing personal protective equipment, setting up awareness training sessions, and support the setup of isolation centres.
A nurse following patients in the field. © Première Urgence Internationale – April 2020.
Almost half of the population below the poverty line
The economic and humanitarian situation in Lebanon has been highly impacted by the socio-economic crisis affecting the country since 2019 leading to the uprising in October, even before the arrival of coronavirus COVID-19 in the country. The devaluation of the Lebanese Pound, due to US dollar shortages in the country, led to an increase of market supply prices and prevent vulnerable populations in Lebanon from affording minimum basic needs. Between September 2019 and March 2020, the World Food Program has recorded an increase of 40.1% of the Survival Minimum Expenditure Baskets used as index to measure the cost per individual to cover the minimum survival food needs for a month.
The deepening of the economic crisis following the COVID-19 pandemic highly impacted vulnerable populations in Lebanon, resulting in April in almost half of the country’s population living below the poverty line according to the World Bank and 75% of the population in need of assistance according to the government. Lebanon is also home to about 450,000 Palestinian, living in 12 refugee camps, and to up to 1.5 million Syrian refugees. Both are vulnerable populations plagued by poor housing conditions, high rate of unemployment, poverty… and subject to violence, arbitrary arrest, detention and harassment.
With this economic and social situation, Lebanon was not well prepared to bear any additional burden, and lacked the necessary logistics means and preparedness to face the COVID-19 epidemic. The first case of COVID-19 in Lebanon was confirmed on the 21st of February, and so far, as of 6th of May, 741 cases were acknowledged, resulting in 25 deaths.
Reorienting our action to prevent the spread of the virus
In Lebanon, different responses are being implemented by the Ministry of Public Health and the UNHCR, to answer the needs of both Lebanese and refugee populations. These responses depend on the epidemic level and are to be adapted locally by the actors. As a major humanitarian actor in the country since 1996, Première Urgence Internationale is working closely with both actors to ensure an effective response for all vulnerable population in Lebanon, both in Palestinian camps, and in refugees and host communities.
Première Urgence Internationale aims at providing the best and fastest response possible regarding the COVID-19 situation to vulnerable populations across Lebanon, and is currently acting to prevent the spread of the virus:
- Maintaining a continuity of services in all the primary health care centres supported across the country, and adapting the activities to limit the potential spread of the virus: protection referrals and social counselling support and follow-up are now made by phone;
- Reorienting existing programs to ensure the procurement and distribution of 2,000 hygiene kits to avoid further propagation of the virus: Première Urgence Internationale is now providing all its supported clinics (20 in total) with personal protective equipment and material for all facilities’ staff members;
- Awareness raising to sensitize vulnerable population on the importance of hygiene and barrier gestures, making sure no gathering of more than 15 people are taking place.
An emergency program during 45 days
In parallel of these mitigation measures on existing activities, Première Urgence Internationale just started a new emergency response program, in consortium with 4 other NGOs: Relief International, Solidarités International, Médecins du Monde, and Action contre la Faim. This emergency response is being provided for 45 days, from 23rd of April to 6th of June, thanks to the support of the START Network and the IKEA Foundation.
It consists in the support to the setup of isolation and quarantine spaces, as well as the prepositioning and distribution of personal protective equipment and Infection, Prevention and Control items and the provision of awareness raising sessions.
Ensure equal access to health care in Lebanon
Première Urgence Internationale’ field teams also continue responding to the COVID-19 epidemic through ensuring access to usual primary healthcare and classic consultations, to avoid secondary consequences, equally dramatic, that could cause preventable deaths due to other health disorders.
Distribution of antenatal care kits for pregnant women, to encourage them to follow up on their pregnancy despite COVID-19 epidemic. © Première Urgence Internationale – April 2020.